Top things to do in Ioannina Greece

At the banks of lake Pamvotida
At the banks of lake Pamvotida

Ioannina or Yannena is beautiful town in the region of Epirus in Northwestern Greece. Built at the banks of lake Pamvotida, one of the oldest lakes worldwide  is a place full of history and art. Ioannina is  also known as the city of silversmiths and as gastronomical paradise.

I spent 2 days in Ioannina in January as it was an area I wanted to visit for a long time.

At the banks of lake Pamvotida
At the banks of lake Pamvotida

Things to do in Ioannina

Explore the castle town of Ioannina

The castle town of Ioannina is the oldest byzantine fortress in Greece and is one of the few castles that is still inhabited. I was lucky enough to stay at a lovely boutique hotel inside its walls during my visit. It was built in 528 AD by the Emperor Justinian and it played an important role in the history of the town over the years.

Fetiche Mosque in Ioannina
Fetiche Mosque in Ioannina

Some important monuments inside its walls are the Its Kale Acropolis there you will see the Fetiche Mosque where you will learn about the story of Ali Pasa and the role that played in the history of the city. In front of the Mosque there are the graves of Ali Pasa and his first wife. Other sites that worth a visit are  the Byzantine museum with an extensive sollection of Byzantine icons, the ammunition depot, a Byzantine silversmithing collection and a nice cafe with impressive views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Other interesting sites inside the castle walls are the remains of a turkish library, the  Municipal Museum that is housed in the impressive Asian Passa Mosque that has a great collection of traditional uniforms of the area, silverware and guns.

Asian Passa Mosque in Ioannina
Asian Passa Mosque in Ioannina
The-cCafe inside the Its Kale Acropolis in Ioannina old town
The Cafe inside the Its Kale Acropolis in Ioannina old town

Lastly don’t forget to wander around the alleyways of the old town and see the traditional houses and shops.

Have a walk around lake Pamvotida

One of my favorite spots in Ioannina is the beautiful lake. You can have a walk around it or just sit in one of the benches and admire the view, watch the seagulls and the ducks. There are some nice cafe and resturants around the lake. Cafe Ludost at the banks of the lake is a favorite of mine as it is dod friendly. Our dog Charlie enjoyed his visit there and especially his trats and water bowl.

walking at the banks of the lake in Ioannina
walking at the banks of the lake in Ioannina

Take the boat to the island

From the banks of lake Pamvotida you can take the boat to the nearby island one of the two lake islands in Greece that are inhabited. The island has one village that is very picturesque with little alleyways and souvenir shops selling local products. On the island there is the museum of Ali Pasa that houses many artifacts of the Ottoman period and some of his personal items. It was also the place where he was murdered in 1822. The boat leaves every hour in winter and every half and hour in the summer. Tickets cost 2 € each way.

On our way to the island of the lake with the boat
On our way to the island of the lake with the boat

Explore Perama Cave

Located just 5 km away from the city centre, it’s one of the most rare and beautiful caves in the world. It was created 1.500.000 years ago in the heart of Goritsa hill. It has a steady temperature of 17 Celcius throught the year. As soon as you arrive you will be greeted by your guide that will show you around the cave. The tour takes around 45 minutes, during that time you will leran abouth the history of the cave and you will enjoy a great display of stalctites and stalagmites. Beware that there are a lot of steep steps inside the cave.

Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the cave.

Opening hours: daily 09:00 – 17:00

Tickets cost: Full 7 € Reduced 3.50 €.

Visit Dodoni Sanctuary and Theatre

The archaeological site of Dodoni is located 21 km away grom Giannena and it’s home to one of the oldest Oracles of the Hellenic world. The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus and it had an Oracle area and a theatre that are still visible today along with a Prytaneum and a Parliament. You can climb at the theatre and enjoy a magnificent view of the nature and the mountains.

Opening hours: daily 08:00 – 15:00

Tickets cost: Full 4 € Reduced 2 €.

The ancient theatre of Dodoni
The ancient theatre of Dodoni

Try the local delicacies

The area of Ioannina is famous for its tasty cuisine. Things you should definitely try are different kind of pies and fish from the lake like trout, eels and frog’s legs.  Another special delicacy of the area is a dessert called baklavas.

Nice cafe infront of the lake
Nice cafe infront of the lake

Buy traditional products

Apart from the famous baklava other things you can take home with you from Ioannina include herbs from the surrounding mountains, an alcohol free liqueur made from fruits only available there and of course any kind of silver items like jewellery.

Other interesting sites inside in the area include the Archaeological museum of Ioannina located in the central square of the city with findings from the Paleolithic era until the post Roman years and the Pavlos Vrellis museum of Wax Effigies at the outskirts of the city. At the museum you will learn the history of the area which is reproduced by the wax effigies.

souvenir shops outside the walls of the old town in Ioannina
souvenir shops outside the walls of the old town in Ioannina

How to get to Ioannina

You can get to Ioannina from Athens through Patra by car or public bus (Ktel). The distance is 445 km and you will need approximately 6 hours. From Thessaloniki its 261 km and through the new Egnatia Highway you will need 2 hours and 40 minutes. You can alos take the public bus ktel from Thessaloniki. Lastly there is an airport in Ioannina called King Pyrros with regular flights from major cities.

Ionnina is also a great base to visit the nearby beautiful villages of Zagorohoria and Metsovo.

Have you ever been to Ioannina?


  • I’ve been to Ioannina last summer and it’s such a beautiful city! Big lake, old town and mountains – what else is there? I went to the Perama Cave and I’d definitely recommend it to everyone! It was such a great experience and the tour guides are so lovely!

    • Oh wow! I don’t know a lot of people outside Greece that have been to Ioannina and it’s a shame really. I am happy you enjoyed it!

  • I’d never heard of Loannina. Greek cities and towns have so much history. I love the mix of the blend of cultural influences that appear to be present within the town, from the local Greek Baklava to the mosques. I love exploring ruins so I’d be sure to visit the Dodoni Sanctuary and Theatre.

  • I’ve only been to Crete and Santorini in Greece. There is so much of Greece I still want to explore – particularly the mainland. Those Perama Caves look beautiful!

  • Looks a lot like Turkey! Well, shouldn’t really be surprising considering their shared history, but it was a pleasant surpirse nonetheless. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece – but mostly considered Santorini and Mykonos so far. This one’s a great addition, when I finally go there. Love the serenity of the lake.

    • Greece was under Ottoman occupancy for 400 years that is why it reminds you of Turkey. I love how civilization blend.

  • Never heard of Ioannina before. Looks interesting. Being a history lover, I would really enjoy that castle and all the museums. I agree with Barbie, it does look like Turkey. I had done Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens previously and my last cruise took us to Volos and Khios. I loved them both but was not familiar with them prior to my trip. So many hidden jewels in Greece.

    • The whole country is full of historical monuments. You have been to quiet a lot of places in Greece Melody. I hope you can come back soon.

  • Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know much about Ioannina. Looks different from the token white and blue I often see of Greece but just as interesting. Would love to see the theatre at Dodoni, I’ve got a soft spot for Greek theatres.

  • Bonjour!
    It’s great to “meet you”!
    My heart has stayed in Janina since last August. I actually come from a very small village in Epirus called Pogoniani and I have visited Janina multiple times over the years, but never spent enough time to get to know the town deeper. It was great! Loved your post, and your…work in general. One thing I would suggest you to visit next time is the monastery of Philanthropinon on the island and see the unique murals – globally unique. You would make my day if you took a look on my post on Ioannina.

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